Peak Coal

Coal is the big elephant in the room. Supplies are supposed to last until the end of time… or will they?

A recent report on coal reserves (pdf) by the energy watch group makes this belief a bit more suspect than it was. However, I’m still waiting to see any new reports from this group, who suddenly appeared, published three studies, that got immediate press attention, then haven’t been heard from since.

But the question has been raised. When you factor in the basics of the resource arithmetic Albert Bartlett tirelessly explains, you begin to see that magic words like ‘at current rates’, which always underlie all estimates of how long this stuff will last, serve to hide just how serious our overall situation actually is.

Then figure in the incredibly corrupt nature of Big Coal (brief overview in The Rolling Stone), and how dependent we are on it for energy production, especially in the USA and China, which makes most of its electricity via coal fired power plants, you begin to see that the coal picture is probably going to be a lot more important than oil over the next decades.

Why? Because the stuff is a climate change CO2 nightmare. Use it and we die. Don’t use it and… growth, along with possibly the entire global capitalist system, might just stop altogether. Which is going to need to happen anyway, so this is the time to stop.

With falling exports of petroleum, and rising demand for oil and gas, the world is going to move two directions, both toxic, but in very different ways:

  1. coal
  2. nuclear

So there you have it, strip mine for uranium or coal, create radioactive tailings for uranium, blast the tops off of mountains for coal, poison our ecosystem for thousands of years, hoping the containers and pits we bury the nuclear waste in never starts to touch a water table, ever, in its entire radioactive life span, or pray that the climate scientists are wrong and coal CO2 emissions will not end up destroying the Earth’s ecosystem in the coming years.

Or have a global summit and admit we have to stop, institute penalties on companies and countries that violate the terms, like immediate trade barriers and fines, start to look for ways to immediately cut consumption, now. That’s of course the solution that the world will be dragged kicking and screaming to, if it makes it at all.

Peak Coal Resources

As you may or may not be aware, coal resources have been re-evaluated over the last year or two, and the numbers aren’t looking good.

Here’s some (to be added to) good resources:

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